Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Time magazine called him one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2005.
I had the opportunity to speak with him over tea in the mid-90s when he was the keynote speaker at the Christian Medical Society Conference which Jennifer and I attended here in Nairobi.
At the time I was a distraught young missionary, troubled by the untold suffering of the poorest of the poor in Bundibugyo. I came to Stott with my struggles in seeing countless children dying of preventable disease, of women beaten senseless repeatedly by their drunk husbands, of relentless encounters with hunger, pain, and loss. Dr. Stott listened patiently, offered some words of consolation and pointed me to one of his most notable books, The Cross of Christ. He directed me to a specific chapter in which he addresses the issue of pain and suffering in our world. It is there that I found his words:
I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross’. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after awhile I have had to turn away. And in imagination, I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through his hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self justification in such a world’ as ours.1 (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 335-336)
Suffering continues to be a an issue close to my heart. Other books on suffering which have been helpful to me include DA Carson's How Long O Lord, J Earekson Tada's When God Weeps, CS Lewis' The Problem of Pain, Phil Yancey's Where is God When it Hurts, and my favorite, Michael Card's Sacred Sorrow.
John Stott while not known widely outside of the church led an exceptional life of faith keeping one foot in the Scriptures and the other in the world where he was deeply committed to the salient issues of our day - justice, peace, and climate change. Extensive obituaries extolling his broad influence have appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, and Christianity Today this week.
He will be sorely missed.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Friday, July 08, 2011
Sunday, July 03, 2011
It's good, it's faith-pushing, to remember that we're in the middle of the story. Even inside the RVA fence, protected from much that is evil, kids are in process, and many are facing life-pivotal-moments. Depression stalks, pressures abound, and yet love breaks through. When Scott and I see these kids in clinic, we want to honor their journey, remember that they will reach graduation more fully themselves than they were in the years before. When I see obnoxious attention-getting behaviour, I don't want to label that kid, but see through it to the person who might be giving next year's testimony. I am convicted today of how easily I label and box, and how crucial it is to see beyond to the glory that will be revealed.
And reminded that the current US Ambassador to Kenya attended RVA, as did his wife.
Several calls from "kids" in Uganda this week, people we care about . . . who have their own stories. Parents separating, destructive effects of alcoholism, gossip, jealousy, anxiety, and the struggle for getting needs met. Frustrating to be powerless, for them and for me. I am convicted again of the importance of believing, taking the longer view of glory.
So, how to pour into these stories in a way that peels away the crust of the Fall and reveals the wonder? Sometimes just by being present, and bearing witness.
Yesterday the rugby teams, Varsity and JV, traveled to a school near Thika, to play a match that had been delayed and rescheduled and confused all term, and so it felt like a last-minute addition. It was the last game of the season, coming just before exam week, and against the number one school in the league, a large well-known Kenyan institution that emphasizes rugby and trains year round, with a professionally qualified coach who works internationally. It was a school that beats us, and pretty much everyone else, decisively and repeatedly. Some of the varsity seniors chose to quit the team rather than play that last game. Plus it was over two hours away, in road-contruction-mass-confusion Nairobi outskirts traffic, to a dusty acacia-studded field, where about 500 opposing students chanted and massed on the sidelines, laughing loudly at our mistakes, taunting. At that distance, on second-to-last weekend of the school year, the supportive crowd was thin. Me and three other parents and two young siblings, to be precise. It wasn't our teams' best games, by far. JV lost 36-10, and Varsity something like 26-0. I did get to see Caleb kick a penalty for 3 points, which was a significant percentage of the total points RVA scored, but he also was frustrated with himself for a few errors, not his most heroic game. But the boys walked away satisfied, declaring that they had had fun, they had supported each other as teams, they had stuck it out to the end. The lone parent-car that went had errands to do on the way back, so I ended up on the bus packed with sweaty, scraped, dusty, thirsty kids. And I didn't hear one word of complaint. They recalled plays and tackles, they joked. (There was one kid that gave me a scare on that ride by falling into a deep sleep and slumping onto the floor, which made me worry that he'd had a head injury in the game and was now progressing to coma, but when I pried his eyes open he answered questions appropriately, and in spite of my nerves walked off the bus smiling when we got back, saying he's a solid car-sleeper . . ). They demonstrated sportsmanship and resilience.
The stories that will be told of these kids, including my own, will be long and often harrowing and intermittently hysterical, and involved scattered hard-to-reach-hard-to-love spots all over this world. Perhaps if we could see where they are heading, we'd be more willing to invest in them now.